Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker had done it. He is going into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Walker joined Derek Jeter among the players who received the necessary 75% of all ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America [BBWAA].
In a conference call to discuss going into the Hall, Walker showed his humorous side by joking about being the lesser-known of the two Hall of Famers announced.
“Remember those old 45s we used to listen to? They had a song on the A-side and a song on the B-side that you really didn’t know about?” Walker said. “I’m the B-side.”
It was Walker’s last year of eligibility for the Hall.
Players must receive 75% of the vote in order to be inducted. This was Walker’s 10th year on the ballot. In 2014, the Hall of Fame changed the length of time a player could remain eligible for the ballot from 15 years to 10 years, a wrinkle that turned up the pressure on Walker’s candidacy this year.
But he made it. Walker was named on 76.6% of ballots cast by voting members of the BBWAA. He cleared the threshold by six votes.
Of the 19,960 players to appear in a major league game, Jeter and Walker will be No. 234 and No. 235 inducted to the Hall, according to its tally, including 134 chosen by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Walker was somewhat dazed by the announcement. “Pinch me,” he said.
The Cardinals are happy to see Walker inducted.
“On behalf of the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization, I would like to congratulate Larry Walker on this well-deserved honor and his selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Cardinals’ Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. in a news release. “Although Larry’s time with the Cardinals came at the end of his distinguished career, he played a significant role in 2004 helping the Cardinals to their first National League title and World Series appearance in 17 years.”
Walker, whose Major League career spanned 17 seasons [1989-2005] with Montreal, Colorado and St. Louis, was a five-time All-Star, won three batting titles [1998, 1999 and 2001]. Walker posted an impressive career-OBP [on base percentage] of .400.
His crowning achievement came in 1997, when Walker won the lone MVP Award of his career, hitting 49 home runs and driving in 130 with a batting line of .366/.452/.720 for the Colorado Rockies.
Walker spent his best decade in the mile-high air of Colorado’s Coors Field but his only World Series appearance was when the Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox in 2004.
Asked whether he would be in the Hall if he hadn’t raked in the thin air, he quickly replied: “Absolutely not. I get it. Coors Field’s a great place to hit.”
“There’s no backing away from that,” he said. “But I believe with that, I did it better than anybody else at that ballpark. So that had to be some consideration, I guess.”
He knows playing in Colorado likely also was one reason why it took him so long to be inducted.
“I get the arguments. Trust me, I’ve heard them all. I’ve heard the good things, I’ve heard the bad things,” Walker said. “I’m OK with both of them. There’s negativity to everything. I’m good at taking it.
“But 76.6% of the writers didn’t think that way, so I’m as grateful as I can be.”
Walker compiled a career .313 batting mark with 383 HR’s, 1,311 RBI and 230 stolen bases in 1,988 career games played, and was a seven-time Rawlings Gold Glove recipient.
He joined the Cardinals in an Aug. 6, 2004, trade from Colorado. Upon his arrival, Walker helped the Cardinals to their first National League title since 1987 and a trip to the World Series in 2004. In 2005, he helped the club to advance to the NLCS.
In 144 career games with St. Louis, Walker batted .286 with 26 home runs and 79 RBI. He hit six home runs, including two in the 2004 World Series, with 12 RBI in his 24 postseason games played with the Cardinals.
Walker will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during its induction ceremony to be held on July 26, 2020, in Cooperstown, New York.